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Poking around Town

Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 19:13 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I ran my first official errand to the municipal offices of the town where I’m buying a house, and I was surprised to find such a stately town hall.

Webster Town Hall

A traditional quaint New England town hall it isn’t, especially for such a humble town. It’s an old building, predictably dark and slightly musty inside, but with such tremendous character that it I wanted to poke around and see what interesting treasures might lie hidden behind its doors. The first floor foyer was magnificent but spartan, a couple plaques on the walls commemorating the town’s dead from long-ago wars, and a Howitzer cannon sat in one corner, accompanied by a framed document I didn’t stop to read. The floors and stair treads throughout the building were stone (granite, I suspect, which is the New England working person’s marble). The woodwork was heavy and rich, not like what you’d see in modern buildings (if they even have wood). I was on an extended lunch break and had only enough time to conduct my business and leave. But I would love to go back sometime, perhaps talk to some of the town employees, and do some more looking.

The town itself is small by my standards, just over 12,000 people (in 2007) compared to three times that where I currently live. City-data.com, which collects and posts municipal data from all over the country, notes that in 2007 the median age of the town’s residents was 37, the median household income $42,576, the median single-family residence value $207,795. It’s a working-class immigrant town, always has been and probably always will be, despite the gazillion-dollar houses replacing old quaint summer cottages around the big lake that takes up about 15% of the town’s geographic area. The dominant ancestries of town residents are Polish (23.9%) and French (20.9%), with smaller numbers of Irish, French-Canadian, Italian, and English. Take out anything with the word “French” on that list and you pretty much have my gene pool. In fact, I share an ancestral heritage with over half the people in town (presuming there are no overlaps, which there probably are). By the way, when did “French-Canadian” become an ancestry? I’m pretty sure that their ancestors came from Europe. But I digress.

The municipality was incorporated in 1832, 105 years after the incorporation of my current town. Unless I meet a premature demise, I’ll be able to enjoy the bicentennial festivities when I’m a spry 68. I trust it will be a bitchin’ good time, especially if there are still people around ethnic enough to whip up some delicious old world food. I have already identified a small Polish market inconspicuously named Midtown Deli and hope that perhaps the owner can share a good pierogi recipe. I have also found a supermarket, three pharmacies, the local AAA office, the post office, the public library, a dry cleaner, a candlepin bowling alley, a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through, the town beach, and asphalt tennis courts that I presume are public. And that’s all less than a mile from my house.

I will also live within 3/4 mile of all three Catholic churches in town. I’ve never actually selected a church to join; I still attend the same one my parents joined when we moved to my current town almost 43 years ago. During my college years, I went to the one within walking distance because they had a student mass and I didn’t have a car. But when I move, I will have a few from which to choose. One of them, a minor basilica, is heavily Polish, so much so that half the Sunday masses are in Polish and portions of the weekly bulletin is written in Polish, though I couldn’t tell you which parts because I don’t know the language. The second church has one weekend Spanish mass, which I think I can manage to avoid. The third church is English-only. I plan to shop around, so to speak, and talk to the priests, check out the bulletins, etc., though I’m pretty sure I won’t be joining the Polish parish in large part because the pastor is really hard to understand even when he speaks English.

One thing I won’t have to worry about is finding a good place from which to watch the Independence Day fireworks. The town does a fantastic fireworks show every year, usually thanks to a generous donation from one or more of the local businesses. They launch the pyrotechnics from the beach, but for years I’ve watched from my friend’s deck on the other side of the north pond. Perhaps I’ll get myself a small recreational kayak so I can paddle across to visit. Then again, kayaking back in the dark probably isn’t the best idea…

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